Go Outside and Meet People

I attended the Toronto Area Cocoa and WebObjects Developers Group meeting last night and had a great time, as I always do. It’s such a great experience to meet with other people as invested in the iOS and OS X ecosystem as I am; they all offer their own unique perspectives on familiar concepts. What a fantastic time.

It got me thinking about meeting with people in our field. I think programmers shy away from meeting new people, for whatever reason. Paul Graham has an interesting essay in which he discusses the constrasting “schedules” of people who make things and the schedules of those who manage these makers. He calls out the idea of “speculative meetings” as a kind of poison to a maker’s productivity.

When you’re operating on the manager’s schedule you can do something you’d never want to do on the maker’s: you can have speculative meetings. You can meet someone just to get to know one another. If you have an empty slot in your schedule, why not? Maybe it will turn out you can help one another in some way.

Graham holds the ideal of maximizing productive output as a paramount aspect of your day-to-day life as a maker. Maybe in a startup incubator like Y Combinator that’s true. However, while these speculative meetings where you “meet someone just to get to know one another” might not maximize productivity, I’m certain that they’re critical in maximizing creativity.

I think that, as members of a profession built upon the science of maximizing use of computational resources, we sometimes do ourselves a disservice by eschewing these personal encounters. We excuse this asocial behaviour by pointing out its lack of productive output.

I have never turned down an invitation to have a coffee with someone, I’ve always learnt something when I meet them, and I usually make a friend. The worst case scenario is that I meet with an increidbly boring person and I learn not to pursue projects with them. That’s the worst case. The best case is that I meet someone who will become a business partner and together, we both become millionairs. High five!

It’s not that I disagree with Paul Graham’s thesis that we makers work on our own schedules and that we shouldn’t be contrained by manager’s timetable; I agree that a small meeting in the morning can undermine the goal of maximizing my productive output that day. However. I think it’s important, as those who are driving the technology that is fundamentally changing society, to leave the keyboard and talk to one another every now and then.

Otherwise, what sort of society is our technology enabling?

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